Poor diets are associated with 20% of deaths worldwide. Obesity, heart disease, strokes, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and tooth decay are all linked with unhealthy eating. Even some cancers – something worth raising as we mark World Cancer Day – can be linked with being obese or overweight; research suggests around 30 percent of cancer cases are linked to poor dietary habits, and being overweight increases the risk of 13 types of cancer.
For over a decade now, the World Health Organization has considered diet to be a public health priority. Governments around the world have tried to encourage healthier eating as a way to achieve longer, healthier lives and reduce healthcare costs. Yet, ultimately, how big an impact does diet have on public health?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Maia, who says:
The majority of health problems come from eating bad food which over the years slowly destroy the body from within and makes people ill. When more people have diseases, there is increased pressure on healthcare systems. For the past few years, statistics have shown a dramatic increase in all kinds of diseases, and particularly type-2 diabetes and heart disease – conditions directly related to what we eat. Yet there is very little attention paid to how food can be used to prevent and heal diseases…. I think the only way to save healthcare would be for nations to become healthier. The main medicine for that is food.
Is she right? To get a response, we put Maia’s comment to German social democrat MEP Tiemo Wölken, who sits as a substitute member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. We asked him how important he considers nutrition to be for public health and how better diets can be promoted (his response below is in German, but subtitled in English):
For another perspective, we also spoke to Guiseppe Grosso, President of the European Public Health Association’s food and nutrition section. How would he respond?
She is right. As a scientist, I have dealt with the relationships between nutrition and life expectancy and the research results confirm her opinion. Diet determines how healthy we are. Even children have to acquire knowledge about nutrition and, as an adult, be empowered to make the right decisions. What we eat is important and we have to know how to eat a healthy diet.
Could a better diet solve many of our health problems? How much pressure could be lifted off our healthcare systems through healthier eating and better promotion of public health? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!